EME 811
Solar Thermal Energy for Utilities and Industry

1.6. Why Solar Thermal?


Facts about Solar Thermal Energy

  • Solar thermal energy has been used in various ways for millennia, ranging from simple fire starting with a pocket mirror to solar architecture to capture heat in buildings.
  • 48% of the the sun's energy is in the infrared spectrum, invisible to the human eye, as heat.
  • Solar thermal collectors can employ (absorb) nearly the entire solar spectrum
  • The sun is the most abundant and reliable source of energy
  • Financially, solar thermal energy conversion systems have reached grid-parity in many locations

Currently, we (humans) use an abundance of fossil fuels for much of our heat needs. While in the long run our society will switch to the source of all of those fossil fuels (the sun), the reality is that most of you have probably not experienced the direct impact of a solar thermal energy conversion system on your life. The truth is that we can do everything that we currently do in our society with solar energy. Much of the burden can be carried by solar thermal solutions. One terrific modern day example of a solar thermal energy system is the Drake Landing Solar Community in Alberta, Canada, where 95% of the the community's heating needs are supplied by on-site solar thermal collection and a connected seasonal thermal energy storage system. Our society uses a lot of heat. We need to keep working to make solar thermal energy solutions make sense and work well in more places whenever possible.